It’s been three years, twenty-five weeks, and five days since Isis Blake fell in love, and if she has it her way, it’ll stretch into infinity. Since then, she’s punched Jack Hunter—her nemesis-turned-maybe-something-more—in the face, survived a brutal attack by her mom’s abusive ex thanks to Jack’s heroics, and then promptly forgotten all about him.
The one bright spot for Isis is Sophia, the ephemeral girl who shares Isis’s hospital stay as well as a murky past with Jack. But as Isis’s memories return, she finds it harder and harder to resist what she felt for Jack, and Jack finds it impossible to stay away from the only girl who’s ever melted the ice around his heart.
As the dark secrets surrounding Sophia emerge, Isis realizes Jack isn’t who she thought he was. He’s dangerous. But when Isis starts receiving terrifying emails from an anonymous source, that danger might be the only thing protecting her from something far more threatening.
The Lovely Vicious series is best enjoyed in order.
Book #1 Love Me Never
Book #2 Forget Me Always
Book #3 Remember Me Forever
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Forget Me Always
By Sara Wolf, Stacy Abrams, Lydia Sharp
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Sara Wolf
All rights reserved.
"ARE YOU ALL RIGHT, SIR?"
I look up at the voice. A bellboy smiles cheerily at me. He has no idea who I am or what I've been through, yet he has the nerve to smile. It's been nineteen days since Isis Blake forgot about me, and he has the nerve to ask if I'm all right.
I light another cigarette.
"Get out of my face."
His expression falls, and he backs away. "S-Sure. Have a nice night."
I scoff and lean against a pillar of the grand marble roundabout of the Hilton. I watch ridiculously fancy black cars shuttle in and out, dropping off equally puffed-up old rich people. Bellboys and concierges scurry around, calling taxis and directing valets. Revolving glass doors with gold accents constantly whir and hiss over the mindless chatter. Women shriek with laughter, men guffaw; all of them are oblivious, happy idiots. I can see the truth in their clothes and posture — five of the men are cheating on their wives. Two of them with far younger women, one of them exclusively with prostitutes. He not-so-subtly taps the ass of a passing blonde in a peacoat. She hides her grimace with an actress's grace. When she sees me, she clips over in her heels with a mildly happier smile.
"Jaden! Oh my God! It's been forever!"
"Three months, Lily," I correct. Jaden is the name I use for my escorting work, and I've never let the other escorts I've met in passing know my real name.
"Three months, forever, same difference." She laughs. Perfume wafts off her, the expensive, strong kind. The kind you buy when you have to cover up the pervasive smell of sex.
"Finished with work?" I ask, and jerk my head at the man still watching her lecherously, his wife oblivious and clinging to his arm.
Lily sighs. "Yeah, for the night. I'm about to head back to my place. What about you?"
"Mayor's daughter." I motion to my tuxedo. "Winter ball."
"Bet you were the hottest guy there."
"It was a Catholic girls' school."
"And the hottest guy she'll ever have."
Lily is just a few years older than me, but she's been in the Rose Club far longer. Lily isn't her real name, just like Jaden isn't mine. I don't know her in real life, and she doesn't know me. But sometimes we work in the same hotels, and she's one of the few girls in the Rose Club who isn't annoyingly vapid. So we talk.
"Seriously." Lily elbows me. "I've seen her. She looks like an inbred Pomeranian on her best days."
"Now now." I blow smoke into the sky. "Let's not be nasty. She paid good money. And I respect and appreciate money."
Lily watches my face carefully as she waits for a taxi to cycle past. She knits her thin brows.
"What about your own prom?" she asks.
"What about it?"
"Are you going to that? Do you have a girlfriend? Or a date?"
I took Sophia to my junior prom. Sophia, the hospital-ridden girl I'd known since middle school — my first infatuation and first real friend. But it's not Sophia who pops into my head right now. An image grows strong of Isis, dressed up in some silk dress. Red? Or blue? Purple, probably, to match her hair. She'd dance and drink and start at least four fights. It would be awful. It would be hilarious. I smirk at the thought, but it quickly fades. She's in the hospital, too. And thanks to that scumbag called her mother's boyfriend, she doesn't remember me anymore. It's been almost three weeks since she asked who I was, with that blithe smile on, and only now have I really started to believe it.
"No. I'm not going to the senior one. It's pointless. I'm graduating in five months, anyway. High school barely matters anymore."
She plucks the cigarette from my lips and grinds it under her heel. "When did you start smoking?"
"When did you decide to start mothering me?" I ask.
"It's not good for you."
"Neither is sex work."
Lily glowers. "Escorting. And we both have our reasons for doing that. You don't have a reason to smoke. Unless you want to die early and painfully."
"And if I did, it would be none of your business."
Lily flinches, as if I'd slapped her. She hails a passing cab, then pauses in its open door to look back at me.
"You're one of us, Jaden," she murmurs. "Society looks down on us. Customers objectify us. All we have is each other. So it is my business." She pulls out her Rose Club card — white with pale gold stripes — and hands it to me. "If you ever need anything, or if you wanna talk, call me."
She's gone before I can throw it back at her, gone before the gaping chasm in my chest has the chance to bleed. I shake it off. I'm Jack Hunter. No one makes me bleed.
Except one girl, at a party, nearly five months ago.
I light another cigarette to cover the stench of weakness emanating from me. The women at the hotel's entrance are eyeing me. If I so much as blink in their direction, they'll accost me, flirting with tired tactics and worn eagerness. They are just as bad as the men. They covet things that look nice. And when they can't have what they covet, they squabble, quickly turning on each other in sickening displays of predatory possessiveness.
I consider throwing Lily's card in a nearby puddle. She has no idea what I'm going through. I have no idea what I'm going through. She can't help me. Besides, her help is offered solely because she has designs on me. Even an idiot can see that much.
Not everything with a vagina likes you, dipshit!
I whirl around at the sound of the voice. It's so clear, so perfectly loud and obnoxious, that it has to be her. But no purple streaks bob out of the crowd to greet me. No warm brown eyes crinkle with a smirk.
I fall against the pillar again and laugh, putting my head in my hands as reality slips through my fingers. Get it together, Jack Hunter. You're going to Harvard in seven months. Your mother is waiting for you to come home now. Sophia is counting on you. Her surgery is imminent. You can't go crazy. People are depending on you. You have a life to live, and no matter how much you wish on stars, no matter how much you bargain with God or with the doctors, that life does not include Isis Blake any longer. You're a stranger to her.
The hole she burned in the ice must be filled.
There is no warmth anymore. You barely tasted it, barely felt it on your skin. It brushed against you for a single second. Something so small should not retain this much weight. It is illogical. You are illogical for letting it affect you so much.
There is no warmth, Jack Hunter. Not for the likes of you.
You have blood on your hands. You have duty, and guilt, and you can't escape that. No one can help you escape.
Not even her.
"Jaden!" A shrill voice makes me look up. Cynthia, the mayor's daughter, waves me over to the limo. Her dark hair is over-curled and looks ridiculous. Her pink dress is too tight and too bright. Her circle of simpering friends have dropped off their purses and retouched their makeup, and now they're on their way to an after-party. We're on our way. I'm being paid to be one of them, after all.
I stub my cigarette out and put on my best smile.
* * *
My life has become a series of people asking me if I'm better.
Except I'm sitting in a hospital bed with a massive bandage around my head like a turban. So no, I'm not better.
But people keep asking anyway because it's how you show concern for someone you care about, I guess, but frankly a giant box of chocolate truffles and reign over a small kingdom would be acceptable stand-ins.
No school. No home. All I do is sit in bed all day and watch crappy soap operas in which people faint dramatically all the time. Like, damn. That shit's an epidemic. I get so bored I try to mimic their faints, except the nurses catch me and say stuff like "you have a head injury" and "contrary to popular belief, the floor is hard" or some nonsense, so nobody can blame me when I steal the nearest wheelchair and bolt down the hall at top speed.
"Good evening, chaps!" I nod at two interns. They shoot each other looks, but before they can call security, I'm blazing around the corner.
"Bloody good weather we're having!" I smile at a man sitting in his bed as I pass his open room. He cheerily returns my greeting with a resounding, "Go to hell!"
I round the next corner and come face to face with Naomi, my nurse. Her hair's back in a strict bun, her face angry and worried and tired all at the same time. I don't know how she manages to look a million years' worth of tired and still keep up with me, but she does it well.
"'Ello, love. Fancy a cuppa?"
"You're not British, Isis," Naomi says flatly.
"I can be things," I insist.
"Yes, well, unless those things include a person who is lying in bed recuperating, I don't want to see them. And I especially don't want to see them wheeling around the hospital like a madman."
"The madman is back that way." I jerk my thumb behind me. As if to prove it, a loud "FUCK!" reverberates. Naomi narrows her eyes and points at my room.
"Back in bed. Now."
"Why you gotta be like that?" I sigh. "We can work this out. There can be bribes. Of the monetary kind. Or maybe not monetary. Do you like adventures? I'm full of those. I can give you at least nine adventures."
"You've already given me one for the day. If you don't get back in bed, I won't let Sophia in after her checkup."
I gasp. "You wouldn't!"
I stand up and start to faint dramatically, but she catches me with her meaty arms and plops me in the wheelchair, pushing me back to my room. I grumble the entire way. In the doorway, I crawl out on my hands and knees and fake sob, collapsing into bed.
"Oh, quiet, you drama queen," Naomi chides and closes the door behind her.
"Drama empress!" I yell. "I prefer the title empress!"
My room's quiet. Too quiet. I huff and cross my arms and blow bangs out of my face. I need a haircut. And an escape plan. But looking fabulous while escaping is somewhat required, so I'm putting one before the other.
I grab my phone and text Sophia.
DEAD PROTEIN IS TRYING TO EAT MY EYES. BRING THE SHARP POINTY THING.
Her text comes seconds later.
You mean the thing you threatened that male nurse's balls with?
I sigh contentedly at the reminder of my own past brilliance. I'm so lucky to be me.
She sends one smiley face: :-)
Sophia and I are the youngest people in this hospital, discounting the kids' ward, and they don't let you in there unless you're a doctor or a parent or you have permission, which is really hard to get. Which is why I use the windows. I hate Jell-O and it's all they give you at meals, so I hoard it and give it to the kids like a gelatin-laden Santa, and it's a big hit. Not so much with the nurses. And security officers. Regardless, Sophia and I make sense. Since the day we met at lunch a few weeks ago and I gave her my apple, I've felt like I've known her forever. Being with her is like a massive, run-on déjà vu. When she first told me her name, I blurted, "Oh! You're Sophia!" like it was a huge revelation. She asked me what I meant by that, and I searched long and hard in my own sizable brain and couldn't find a reason. I'd just said it, without thinking, and I didn't really know why. I still don't know why. I don't know a lot of things anymore, and it frustrates me, but it's not easy to maintain frustration when all people ask of you is to sit in bed and eat all day.
Besides that tiny bump in the road, she and I have been getting along famously. You can tell because A) she hasn't run away crying yet, and B) she always ends her texts to me with a smiley. Only people who like you do that. Or people who want to secretly murder you. But really, I don't think someone as delicate and beautiful as Sophia would want to murder someone, unless she wanted to be, like, beautiful and delicate and bloodthirsty, which, I'm not gonna lie, would add to her considerable mystique — "Isis," Sophia says from the doorway. "You're thinking out loud again."
I whirl to face her. She's in a floral sundress, with a thick, cozy-looking sweater. Her platinum hair is kept thin and long, like strands of silver. Her milk-white skin practically glows. To offset all her paleness, her eyes are ocean-deep and navy-dark. In one hand she carries a book, and in the other —
"Scissors!" I crow. "Okay, okay, deep breaths everyone. Because I'm about to say something mildly life-changing."
Sophia inhales and holds it. I point at her.
"You're going to cut my bangs!"
She exhales and fist-pumps. "I'll chop them all off."
"Soph, soapy Soph soapbutt, we have only been together three weeks and I love you dearly, like a sister, like we are deer-sisters frolicking in the woods together, but this is extremely vital to my well-being and I am trusting you with my life."
"Ah, I see." Sophia sits on my bed, giving me an understanding nod. "You keep all your vital organs in your bangs."
"As well as all my future prospects with Tom Hiddleston. So you realize how important this is to me."
"I am quite serious."
"It's not like you can make me look any less hot, since that is impossible, but generally speaking — don't fuck up."
I'm not hot, definitely not compared to someone like Sophia, but it's the bravado that counts. She runs her fingers through my wild bangs.
"Uh, you're the fashion expert here. I just sort of throw on things that don't have holes in them and hope for the best. I read a Cosmo once on the toilet. Does that count?"
"Depends on how long you were on the toilet." Sophia experimentally brushes my bangs with her fingers.
"Years. They talked about face shapes. Like, do I have a square face? A heart-shaped face?"
"Really? Because I was thinking more that-one-unfortunately-misshapen-Skittle-in-the-bottom-of-the-box shape."
Sophia laughs. "Just hold still and close your eyes. I promise I won't disfigure you for life."
There are the soft sounds of snipping and the feel of Sophia's gentle fingers, and then she tells me to open my eyes. I leap out of bed and dash into the bathroom. The age-stained hospital mirror reflects a short-banged girl, her slightly faded purple streaks gracing her forehead. A single bandage wraps around the base of her skull and up to the top of her head, like a headband, and leaves the rest of her head open. She looks tired, old. Her face contains two volcanic eruptions on her chin, one on her nose, and bags under her eyes that would make Coach jealous. And something's wrong. Something deep inside the girl is wrong.
"What's the matter? Don't like it?" Sophia comes up behind me. In the mirror, she practically radiates pale, waifish beauty, and I'm ...
"No, I love it. You did great. Fab. Nothing's wrong! Absolutely zero. Absolute zero. It's kind of chilly in here, isn't it?"
I run back to the bed and burrito myself in the blankets. Sophia follows, sighing.
"If you don't like it, you don't have to lie."
"No, I do! Shit, I really do. Sorry. It's not that, it's ... other stuff. Stuff from before I came here."
"Ah." She settles on the foot of my bed. "The hard stuff. The stuff the hospitals can't heal."
I nod. Sophia's gaze isn't piercing, but something about it has weight, gravity, like she's decades older than she seems. I haven't told her about Nameless, mostly because she doesn't need to know when she already looks so sad all the time. Nameless was my first and last crush back in Florida, and he ruined me in ways that serrated my heart for good.
Sophia hasn't told me anything about her past, either, and it's better that way. I can tell she's had it worse than me. Sniffing out tragedy is sort of my entire deal.
"Was it a boy?" she asks finally. Was it a boy? Or was it a monster? I still don't have the answer to that, so I say the easy thing.
She folds her hands over each other, like a dainty lady, and for the billionth time I'm reminded of how mature she is compared to me. The nurses gossip about her; the way she's been in the hospital for five years, the way she has no family — her mother and father died in a tragic "accident," and her grandmother raised her, but she passed a few years ago, leaving Sophia all alone in the world. Mostly they gossip about the boy who comes to visit her, Jack, the same guy who happened to see our house door open and saved Mom and me from Leo. He wasn't quick enough to stop Leo from flinging me into a wall and cracking my skull open, but he was quick enough to save Mom, and that's all that matters.
Excerpted from Forget Me Always by Sara Wolf, Stacy Abrams, Lydia Sharp. Copyright © 2016 Sara Wolf. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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